2023 was a doozy in terms of SEO.
The SERP landscape underwent radical changes, AI-generated content swept across the web like a plague, and Google’s updates were some of the most volatile in history.
Google also announced and released SGE (in its testing phase, anyway) – which turned the SEO world upside down.
It stands for Search Generative Experience, and it’s Google’s plan to incorporate generative AI into its search results.
While the full rollout isn’t set to take place until 2024, digital marketers everywhere spent the majority of 2023 experimenting with SGE to determine how much it’ll change the SEO game.
In short, it’s predicted that nearly every website will experience a 25% dropoff in organic traffic in 2024, so SEOs have been scrambling to find ways to mitigate impending losses.
Google also made numerous changes to its SERP layout and ranking systems, adding an additional layer of challenge.
To make matters worse, Google’s algorithm updates were incredibly volatile, with websites seeing drastic fluctuations in their SERP rankings.
For example, the core update that took place in October contained a bug that negatively affected traffic on Google Discover. While they were able to fix this bug as of October 31st, lots of websites experienced drops in their traffic coming from Google Discover.
There were a myriad of other changes, such as the introduction of the Hidden Gems feature and the Perspectives tab, but we’ll talk more about those in a bit.
Stick around for our recap of everything important that happened to SEO in 2023.
2023’s Google Updates: The Good, the Bad, and the Volatile
There were a grand total of 9 algorithm updates in 2023, which is one less than in 2021 and 2022.
It’s crucial to note that there were only 9 officially announced updates, as Google is constantly tweaking and altering its algorithm behind the scenes.
Mostly, they only announce an update when they feel the changes are significant enough to affect the rankings of search results.
So, there may have been more updates that we didn’t know about.
The 9 official updates were:
- February 21st: Reviews update
- March 15th: Core update
- April 12th: Reviews update
- August 22nd: Core update
- September 14th: Helpful content update
- October 4th: Spam update
- October 5th: Core update
- November 2nd: Core update
- November 8th: Reviews update
A few interesting things to note here are the number of review updates and the lack of spam updates.
Why so many review updates?
A possible reason is to better compete with Amazon, which is Google’s #1 competitor in the e-commerce space.
Google received heavy criticism this year for the diminishing quality of their search results, which could be why they went so hard on their updates.
2023 only saw a single spam update that took place in October, which is a tad surprising, as these types of updates are usually more frequent.
It could be that the team at Google was so focused on improving their product reviews and overall search results that they didn’t have enough time to cut down on spam.
That’s unfortunate, as they were recently hit with a massive spam attack where spammy sites suddenly ranked for hundreds of thousands of keywords.
The Hidden Gems Feature and Perspectives Tab
2023 saw the release of two new additions to the SERPs, Hidden Gems and the Perspectives Tab.
Let’s start by taking a look at Hidden Gems, which isn’t a SERP feature but is part of Google’s core ranking system.
Ever since E-A-T became E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), Google has placed more emphasis on authentic content.
This is especially important in the age of AI, as Google wants to provide users with first-hand experiences from real people around the world.
Therefore, the Hidden Gems feature prioritizes ‘authentic’ experiences people share through blog posts, social media posts, forums, and other areas online. As long as the content relays first-hand experiences, it can qualify as a hidden gem.
The Perspectives Tab operates in a similar vein, but it’s a SERP feature similar to a featured snippet.
It pops up whenever a search query yields lots of results from social sites like Quora, Reddit, Medium, and others. The tab contains experiences and advice from real people around the web, which is another way Google hopes to combat AI-generated content.
Making Sense of the Madness: Top SEO Lessons from 2023
Now that your hindsight is 20/20, it’s time to pause for reflection to see what we can learn from this crazy year.
First, it’s clear that the search landscape is only going to continue to change in big ways in 2024.
SGE will see widespread adoption, zero-click searches will continue to rise in popularity, and AI-powered tools will further strengthen their stranglehold on the industry.
How can you hope to compete in this highly volatile and uncertain time?
There are a few measures you can take to ensure you always come out on top.
If you haven’t already, investing in premium link-building services is one of the best ways to ensure SERP dominance.
At The HOTH, we boast one of the largest link networks online today. It took us years to build all these connections, and we’re able to build premium links for websites in virtually every industry and niche.
With a robust link profile, Google will trust your content, greatly increasing your chances of better SERP rankings and appearing in SGE’s AI Snapshot.
For content creation, displaying first-hand experience is an absolute must.
As we’ve already gone over, Google now values authentic content written by humans – so you’ll need lots of it to capitalize on the new Hidden Gems and Perspectives Tab features.
Also, avoid AI-generated content that feels spammy.
While it’s certainly tempting to let AI take the wheel and generate everything for you (after all, who doesn’t love free content?) – this tactic will backfire.
Online users aren’t interested in generic content that states nothing new.
So, if you are going to use AI for content creation – use it as a supplementary tool for your human writers and editors.
Kickstart 2024 with Better Rankings and More Traffic
Now that 2023 is in the rearview mirror, it’s best to learn from it and move on (leave those painful memories behind).
After all, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to thrive with SEO in 2024; you just need to adapt to some new changes.
At The HOTH, we’ve prepared a proprietary solution to ensure that our clients aren’t affected by the impending 25% traffic drop from SGE (hint: we’ve tweaked it so that it only affects low-grade traffic that wasn’t going to convert anyway).
If you’re ready to start the new year off right, don’t wait to sign up for HOTH X, our managed SEO service, where we set you up with elite-level SEO experts to handcraft a strategy specific to your website.